Lucky to be Alive
Last summer I hauled my Santana 28 up to Olympia to start a summer of cruising. I am a High School
teacher and was looking forward to seven or eight weeks of cruising. I was starting out with my two kids
, Gwen 8 and Aaron 11, and Piggy the guinea pig. We were buddy boating
with Phil and Penny aboard Gallifrey, a Vancouver 25.
We left Olympia on the 1st of July and cruised up the sound, stopping along the way to spend time at Point Deception Zoo, Hartstein Isand, Seattle
, Blake Island (who ever stole the fishing
pole and tackle box you partly ruined a boy’s summer), Whidbey Island, and into the San Juans. While in the San Juans the auto pilot gave out so it was a lot of hand steering
. After a few day’s we headed into Anacortes to meet my wife (Cheryl) and dog (Neptune) on July 20th. When we arrived in Anacortes, I went to the local marine
electronic repair shop to see about auto. But they were too busy to get right to it. So, I got some advice and went back to the boat and with the help of my crew I performed surgery on auto. We found the trouble, a broken drive gear
. So back to the shop we went but they were closed. We went for ice cream to plan our next move. We decided to return to the boat and await Mom.
After a night of pizza and root beer
and telling Mom of the great adventures and wonderful sites, we prepared to get underway. I went back two times that morning to get the parts
but the shop was not open. So, we cast off lines right after Phil and Penny, who always seemed to get out before us. It was a wonderful sunny day but no wind
, so we headed up Bellingham channel. The plan was to go to Sucia then into Canada
the Gulf Islands and see the Buchart Gardens and Victoria. Cheryl and the kids
were down below playing a game
I was in the cockpit
sitting on the coaming with my feet on the cabin
with a hiking stick, leaning on the lifelines
, enjoying the sun. What a wonderful trip this had been and now Cheryl was onboard and things were as they should be. We were motoring along (noisy) at about five knots. I had been relaxing for about an hour when all of a sudden I heard a popping sound and the pelican hook on the gate POPPED OPEN!
Needless to say I fell over backwards into the water with a death grip on the hiking stick. I could not hold on. As I hit the water the force of the boat tore it out of my hand. I went under and when I came up the boat was leaving me. I tried to grab the inflatable
dingy we were towing but I missed the painter on the side as my fingers could not grasp it. The whole time I was screaming for help.
Cheryl and the kids down below suddenly felt the boat make a sharp turn to port. Cheryl yelled up to ask me what was going on. When I did not reply she stuck her head
up through the companionway
to see what was going on. But where had Dad gone? She slowed the boat and scanned the water. She saw the open gate and panicked. Scanning the water again she spotted my red hat but did not see me and, knowing I am not a very good swimmer and was fully clothed, thought I had drowned. Then she spotted me waving and screaming. She headed for me at full throttle with both kids on deck
keeping a eye on dad.
From the water the sight of your boat going away from you is one I cannot describe. It seemed like forever before anyone was on deck looking for me. When Cheryl appeared on deck I knew I had a slim chance of making it as I was swallowing water and having a hard time staying up. At one point I tried to take off my pile pullover but went down and was afraid, so I swam towards the boat.
Now my boat is coming at me at what seems like warp speed. “Oh my God she’s going to run me down.”
Cheryl and the kids lost
me as the boat got close. Now I was doing all I could to get away from the boat but not too far. On the first pass they missed me . Great, now instead of getting run over by my boat I was just back to drowning. On the second pass Cheryl parked the boat about three yards from me. I was struggling to stay up and begging them to throw me something. Aaron was holding one of the two throw cushions
that were in the cockpit
and Cheryl was telling him over and over to throw it, but could not take it from him, throw the other cushion or the lifesling, nor our man overboard pole. Gwen was just wide eyed in disbelief.
As I was along side the boat, one of the main traveler lines was hanging over the side. I reached up and grabbed it. Tired and very cold, I asked for the lifesling which they dropped to me. Now I could go around to the stern and get back onboard.
Phil and Penny, seeing our boat turn around, headed back to us. When they spotted a black object in the water they thought it was Neptune the dog. Laughing, they came back to watch us get a 90-pound lab back on board. As they got closer they saw me in the water and were laughing about me in the water to rescue
the dog. When they got close they realized Neptune was onboard.
When I sail the boat on the Columbia
after work, I wear my life jacket. The kids do not come up on deck without a life jacket and are good about reminding each other. Phil and Penny both commented on how impressed they had been with me wearing a life jacket every day. This was the only day I did not put on a life jacket. Most times I wear a manual/automatic West Marine
I know how lucky I am to be alive. The one thing I kept telling myself was I could not drown in front of my kids and ruin something they both love.
This happened in 2000. I am not a swimmer. I can barley tread water. We had practiced MOB many times, On the Columbia
river,Puget sound and lakes when we had an Aquarius 23.